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New football laws hailed a success

Legislation introduced to tackle football violence and disorder has been hailed a success by prosecutors.

Since the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 was introduced on March 1, 89% of reported cases of offensive behaviour have been prosecuted and 83% of those have led to convictions.

In relation to reports of threatening communications, 78% of cases were prosecuted.

The act has made "offensive behaviour at regulated football matches" a criminal offence and is deemed as such when the behaviour "would or is likely to incite public disorder".

An example of those falling foul of the new legislation were Billy Brawley, Andrew Callaghan and Gordon McKillop who were fined £300 each and given a six-month football banning order for offensive chanting at the newco Rangers debut game at Brechin in July.

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC said: "I am pleased to see this legislation is being used appropriately and to such good effect by police and COPFS (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service).

"Attending football matches or simply supporting your team, wherever that may be, should be an enjoyable experience for all and should not be spoiled by the small minority.

"Football authorities and the clubs are playing their part to tackle the problem with such initiatives as Show Racism and Bigotry the Red Card and we will continue working with them, police and other agencies, adopting a zero-tolerance approach to those who are involved in promoting sectarianism, religious offences and football-related disorder and violence of any kind."

Football liaison prosecutors attend matches with police, with briefings before kick-off and spending time in the control room with match commanders and pitch-side with an officer from the Football Co-ordination Unit Scotland.

The prosecutors are observers and advise police with their knowledge of the Act to ensure a consistent response and that strong cases reach court.

A football banning order can be applied to conduct relating to a football match rather than football in general.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We've made clear that bigotry and hatred will not be tolerated and brought in legislation to give police and prosecutors additional tools in their armoury to punish those who carry out this behaviour.

"Prosecutions are a matter for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, and it is early days, but these figures are to be welcomed.

"Tackling bigotry isn't just about legislation or just about football though, which is why we're investing £9 million over the next three years to help organisations take forward wider work to tackle sectarianism.

"And only last month, we appointed a new independent expert group to help advise on current and future policies to eradicate sectarianism in Scotland, chaired by Dr Duncan Morrow."

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